Highlights of an exciting period in Yorkshire theatre

Opera North's Kiss Me Kate
Opera North's Kiss Me Kate
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In the second part of our round-up of the new seasons in the region. Theatre correspondent Nick Ahad looks at just some of the highlights.

Last week we told you about the highlights coming up this autumn at theatres like the Sheffield Crucible, the Bradford Alhambra, the Wakefield Theatre Royal and a tour by Northern Broadsides. It is testament to the fine period Yorkshire theatre is going through that I ran out of space before I had covered all the brilliant shows that are worthy of your attention in the coming year. There’s still not really enough room here.

One of the things that was clearly missing from last week’s list was The Girls. A new British musical is a rare event these days but uber-producer David Pugh has created the possibility of magic by taking the story of the Rylstone WI Calendar Girls, adding the writer of the movie, Tim Firth, and a sprinkle of stardust with songs written by one Gary Barlow.

The musical receives its world premiere in Leeds, at the city’s Grand Theatre, on November 14. If I had any money, I’d put it all on this being a smash hit. Before The Girls arrive, the Grand will play host to a national tour of a stage adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption. I’m going to hold my judgement on that. The theatre will also, as ever, be hosting Opera North. The biggest opera company in the North is staging Jenfua, The Barber of Seville and a popular show, Kiss Me Kate. I’m told the production will feature ‘one or two opera singers, but mainly West End actors and dancers’. Purists are going to have their feathers ruffled, I’m all for it.

Feathers have always been ruffled by Northern Ballet, led by the intense Canadian David Nixon. I bumped into David last week and he is looking fitter than ever. The company likewise and I am seriously intrigued to see 
what Jonathan Watkins is about to do for Northern Ballet. The Barnsley-born, highly-regarded choreographer is working on bringing his version of 1984 to the stage. It debuts at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in September.

In October I’m intrigued to see the new work from Bradford-based company Freedom Studios. After several years of fascinating work, in October it brings Brief Encounters to Bradford Interchange. Stories inspired by people who work at and travel through the Bradford station, it’s theatre by and for the people. More power to them.

York Theatre Royal is in the middle of a multi-million-pound upgrade. So no theatre. Except there would be pitchforks on fire outside the venue if king... queen...dame of pantomime, Berwick Kaler, wasn’t doing his thing in December. He is, just at the National Railway Museum Signal Box Theatre. It will be an extra special theatrical event by all accounts.

The Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough will be announcing its new season next week, but there is something fascinating coming up in September. Sir Alan Ayckbourn is writing The Divide, a four-part satire of the sexes, written for more than 30 voices.

There will be an exclusive semi-staged reading at the theatre on September 27. Ayckbourn says: “The Divide is something of an experiment. It’s a deliberate attempt to jump away from anything familiar to me. It’s a dialogue based upon two diaries; one of a boy and one of a girl growing up in a weird world.”

That’s right. Yorkshire: a place where history’s second most performed playwright is still experimenting. It’s that kind of place with that sort of theatre community.

And I’ve run out of space again. We’re that good.